The most popular neighbourhoods in Edinburgh range from village-like suburbs to vibrant student districts and UNESCO World Heritage sites. History buffs will love the magical sights of Old Town, while creative types might find themselves more at home in the West End. Edinburgh has it all, including nature trails, urban utopias and award-winning beaches.

    With its historic architecture, cobbled streets and Edinburgh Castle dominating the skyline, the Scottish capital is a beautiful hub of history, art and creativity, brimming with neighbourhoods that each have a unique atmosphere. Explore these neighbourhoods to see a mix of what Edinburgh has to offer.

    1

    Leith

    A modern hub of creativity with a rich maritime heritage

    Leith is one of Edinburgh’s most vibrant neighbourhoods, with a dining scene that includes 2 Michelin-starred restaurants and a chain of hip dockside cafes and bars. You’ll find eclectic shops selling antiques, vinyl records, and even Sicilian pastry. Learn about the town’s past as a maritime centre by visiting museums such as the Trinity House Maritime Museum.

    The most famous landmark in Leith is the Royal Yacht Britannia museum. It was a floating royal residence until 1997, now open to the public. Next to the museum, you’ll find Ocean Terminal, a large leisure outlet with shops, restaurants, a cinema and play areas for the kids.

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    2

    Old Town Edinburgh

    Discover the bustling historic centre of Edinburgh

    Edinburgh’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site that's full of historic buildings and medieval alleys. The famous Royal Mile is home to some of the world’s first ‘high-rise’ residential buildings, as well as traditional pubs, cafes, museums and souvenir shops. You can learn about the local culture and history at landmarks such as Holyrood Palace and the preserved ruins of Holyrood Abbey. The iconic Edinburgh Castle overlooks the city from an extinct volcano.

    Old Town is one of the busiest tourist centres in Edinburgh, but thanks to its medieval street plan, there are plenty of places to take a break from the crowds. Sneak down one of the closes on the Royal Mile to visit quaint bars and see hidden gardens, such as the recreated 17th-century Dunbars Close.

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    3

    New Town Edinburgh

    Admire neo-classical icons in an urban masterpiece

    Despite its name, New Town is a historical extension of the neighbouring Old Town in Edinburgh. It's widely considered to be a feat of city planning. Mostly built between 1767 and the mid-19th-century, New Town is full of fine examples of neo-classical and Georgian architecture. From the famous Princess Street, you can enjoy amazing views of Old Town and Edinburgh Castle.

    Explore the Scottish National Gallery to learn about New Town’s prominence as an artistic centre of Edinburgh, or climb the iconic gothic-style Scott Monument to see the area’s renowned street plan and historic buildings from above. There are plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes for when you need to refuel.

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    4

    West End

    Visit independent boutiques along historic cobbled streets

    The West End of Edinburgh is a place to indulge and admire, thanks to its network of Georgian streets, colourful boutiques and some of the capital’s best art venues. You’ll find quirky independent retailers and traditional pubs lining the cobbled streets of William Street and Strafford Street. Restaurants ranging from upscale venues to casual burger bars add to the area’s bohemian vibe.

    Check out rows of elegant Georgian terraces in Charlotte Square, before exploring the interior of The Georgian House – it offers a glimpse of what life was like during the 19th century. You can learn about the local sports culture by touring the nearby BT Murrayfield Stadium, the home of Scottish Rugby Union with a capacity of over 65,000 people.

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    5

    Haymarket

    Unwind in a historic pub alongside the locals

    Haymarket boasts a diverse range of pubs, cafes and bars that occupy Georgian buildings typical of Edinburgh’s West End. It’s home to several conference centres and the Haymarket railway station, making an ideal base for commuters and business travellers. To unwind, grab a pint in a historic pub near Haymarket Junction or visit the nearby Fountain Park leisure complex.

    You’ll find a war memorial in the form of a clock tower commemorating the fallen Scottish rugby players of WWI and WWII in the centre of the main junction. From here, you can pay your respects and admire sweeping views of the historical buildings and busy bars in the heart of Haymarket.

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    6

    Stockbridge

    Relax in a village-like suburb with an array of outdoor landmarks

    Stockbridge is characterised by its rows of elegant Victorian and Georgian terraces, as well as trendy gastropubs, traditional teahouses and upscale delis that add to its village atmosphere. An ideal place to enjoy the outdoors, this Edinburgh suburb is home to green spaces, river walks and public gardens that provide a retreat from the bustling centre. The weekly Stockbridge Market is popular with the locals.

    Stroll along the Water of Leith walkway for views of tree-covered slopes and old mill buildings. You can reach the picturesque Dean Village in about 15 minutes. If you’re searching for a bargain, you’ll find a large concentration of charity shops along Comely Bank Road. The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a top-rated attraction where you can see rare flora and fauna in greenhouses.

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    7

    Calton

    See the historic monuments that dominate the skyline

    Calton is a mix of quiet residential streets and vibrant commercial areas where you can dine at casual eateries, explore contemporary art galleries and let loose in a diverse range of bars. It’s also home to some of Scotland’s most notable historical monuments that overlook the city from the top of Calton Hill. To experience local life, visit the cafes and bakeries on Broughton Street.

    Top-rated attractions in Calton include the Parthenon-inspired National Monument and the 19th-century Nelson Monument. From here, you can see city icons such as the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Royal Mile. Don’t forget to take your camera as these views of Edinburgh are hard to beat.

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    8

    Southside

    A vibrant university suburb with expansive greenspaces

    Southside is home to a large student population that attend the University of Edinburgh, which is surrounded by architectural gems, beautiful green spaces, and quirky boutiques. It’s a vibrant area just a stone’s throw from Old Town, where you can kick back in a bustling bar, learn about Scottish history in the National Museum of Scotland or admire the natural views of The Meadows.

    Take the family out for a picnic in the expansive Holyrood Park, or head to Lothian Road to shop for goods ranging from homeware to designer chocolates. Adjacent to The Meadows, you’ll find George Square, which was established in 1766 to address the overcrowding in Old Town.

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    9

    Portobello

    Head to the beach in this seaside neighbourhood.

    Portobello is a coastal suburb of the Scottish capital complete with a promenade lined with Georgian and Victorian buildings that face the Firth of Forth and the award-winning white sandy beach. You’ll find plenty of restaurants and bars along the promenade, while the High Street is the best place for boutiques and gift stores.

    The best time to visit is during summer, when the 2-mile sandy stretch transforms Portobello into a bustling seaside resort. If visiting during autumn, look out for wading birds and, if you’re lucky, grey seals. Winter strolls can be relaxing but be prepared for strong winds.

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    Joshua Saunders | Contributing Writer

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